The first time you became a parent, everything was brand new. You were learning about everything from having a healthy pregnancy to caring for an infant. At times, the process may have even felt a little overwhelming. Now that you’re preparing for the birth of your second child, you’re probably more comfortable with topics such as labor, breastfeeding, and diapers. The most novel and challenging task on your list may be how to prepare your firstborn child for a sibling.
A baby brother or sister is a treasured responsibility—but your little one may feel a mix of jealousy, worry, and excitement. Thankfully, there is much you can do to prepare your entire family before the baby comes. Read our guide by experienced parents on how to ready your child for a new sibling. With a little love and patience, everyone can make a positive and smooth transition.
Understand a Child’s Typical Reaction
Some parents have anxiety about telling their children about a new baby because they don’t know how they’ll react. Know that your son or daughter’s reaction to a new sibling will largely depend on their age group. As Care.com explains, toddlers will have a limited understanding of what’s happening. Preschoolers will be able to process the information but could become anxious about having to share your attention and affection.
Kids ages five and older will be most excited about having a brother or sister. However, you will need to prepare them for sharing your time and having a baby in the home. Finding ways to include your children in your pregnancy and the birth process can help them feel involved instead of anxious.
Educate Your Kids About Newborns & Infants
The more that your older child knows about babies, the more confident and positive they’ll feel when your newborn arrives. Although you can’t do much to prepare a toddler, you can familiarize them with the nursery items such as changing supplies and baby clothes. Kids between the ages of two and four can learn about siblings from an educational book. Some hospitals and birthing centers even offer classes that help families and young children become acclimated to a newborn.
Older girls and boys are best served by your information and honesty. Have a general conversation about labor, the recovery time you may require after birth, and the extra attention that newborns need when they arrive home from the hospital. Instead of being surprised by the changes, you can create a plan to handle them together.
Highlight the Positives
When you’re teaching your child about newborns, it’s easy to get caught up in details about diapers, feeding, and naps. These facts, while helpful, can easily become overwhelming. Keep the conversation hopeful and exciting by highlighting the positives of having a baby. Remind them that as a big brother or sister, they’ll have a role in caring for and loving their sibling. They’ll also get a new lifelong friend.
You may want to remind your child how much they’re helping their parents. When they do a few chores, help make dinner, or watch the baby, they’re allowing you to rest and recover. They can also be a fun companion for your partner. It’s fun to talk about the cute things that babies do. Talk about the babbling, burps, and little laughs they’ll soon hear echoing throughout your home. You’ll share a few laughs together, which will be a great pre-baby bonding experience.
Let Them Participate in the Planning
Most parents don’t have a baby shower the second time around. For this reason, you’ll need to do plenty of shopping for baby clothes, diapers, and feeding supplies. This is an excellent activity for the new big brother or sister. Take them along to the baby store or let them join in on the online shopping. Pop a bowl of popcorn and browse for the cutest pajamas, bodysuits, and booties. They’ll also love picking out different styles of blankets and bedding.
Older kids also love decorating the nursery and helping to prepare mom’s hospital bag. You can let them prepare their own supplies for baby’s birthday. Some children will stay with a relative for a while. Other kids will arrive at the hospital soon after the baby is born. Whatever your family decides, a care kit can help make them more comfortable. Start by letting them pick out a cute suitcase, tote, or backpack. Fill it with cozy and fun supplies like a brand new pair of pajamas, plush blanket, or cute stuffed animal. A fresh toothbrush, pair of socks, or a colorful reusable water bottle can also make them feel better during the exciting labor process.
Making the Family Transition Easier
You love both of your children the same. The best thing you can do for your first son or daughter is to remind them how much you love all your children as much as possible. While the family is getting ready for baby, don’t forget to spend some quality time together. After all, you and your firstborn child will have less alone time in the months ahead. Indulge in new experiences and memorable activities. Ideas include going out for a weekly ice cream cone, having weekend “sleepovers” in the living room, or even going on a short vacation during the first or second trimester. Whatever you decide to do with your days, we know you’ll treasure this time as you move onto your next adventure.